In response to a recent editorial in the Orlando Sentinel, Don Mescia wrote the following column:
State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s policy to eliminate cash bail for select misdemeanors is dangerous and misrepresents the facts. In its Sunday editorial, “Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s bail-reform initiative is worth pursuing throughout Florida,” the Orlando Sentinel claims her policy is “better for taxpayers as well as public safety,” but it’s actually better for repeat criminals. Her policy places the burden of pretrial services on taxpayers and fails to protect communities.
With a history of flip-flopping on criminal-justice issues, like capital punishment, it’s clear Ayala enacts flavor-of-the-moment policies rather than doing her job as a public servant to act in the best interest of Floridians.
A new statewide system would require additional, expensive “manpower and resources … to keep up as the demand for supervision increases,” as the editorial acknowledges. While the editorial suggests there would be $800 million in savings from fewer people in jail, that doesn’t account for what United Bail of America estimates as nearly $2 billion in pretrial service costs that would then become the responsibility of taxpayers.
UBA surety agents offer a series of pretrial services to defendants at a lower cost than government-funded programs can provide, including counsel on the conditions of bond, help finding employment, drug testing, office and home visits and review of conduct while on bail. Interviews with defendants ensure our agents have a personal financial interest in the successful behavior and appearance of their clients in court.
The Houston Chronicle reports that failure-to-appear rates have skyrocketed 40 percent in some jurisdictions that have passed bail-reform acts, leaving unaccounted-for defendants in communities while exhausting limited police resources to bring them to court.
In the past few weeks alone, New Jersey courts have released a man accused of dealing drugs to middle-schoolers; a man with multiple outstanding warrants who made “terroristic threats”; and a high-school teacher with 11 outstanding warrants who was found in his car with a female student, drugs, sex toys and a weapon.
Do we really want these “nonviolent” defendants roaming the streets of our communities without the consequences that come from failing to meet the conditions of their release?
In a rush to defend Ayala’s policy, the editorial also ignores states that have instituted similar bail reforms, only to regret them. Last month, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez warned Utah voters of the “devastating results,” calling the failed experiment an aggravation to “catch-and-release, revolving-door justice system[s].”
Justice is best served when defendants obey the conditions of bail, show up for trial and are found innocent or guilty by a judge or jury.
The cash-bail system and surety agents protect the state by keeping the burden of funding pretrial services off the backs of taxpayers; protect citizens by making sure the accused comply with the conditions of bail and face the court; and protect the accused by providing counsel and support during what can be a confusing and trying time.
Don Mescia is executive director of United Bail of America based in Charleston, S.C.
Orlando Sentinel, Don Mescia | 05/22/2018